Doug Mackenzie played his youth hockey in Scarborough, Ontario, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Markham, Ontario, and played at Seneca College before heading for the world of business. When his now 30 year old son started his hockey career at age 5, Doug’s 25-year coaching career began. Coaching his two boys and one daughter through youth hockey was such a fun ride that he continued coaching AA hockey as a non-parent, and he recently became owner of Mississauga-based Front Line Hockey School, where he focuses on providing skills development for House and A level players.
Your hockey school is focused on House and A level players? Why? I purchased the hockey school from a neighbor and friend with whom I’ve spent many hours talking coaching philosophy. I’ve always felt that hockey should be accessible to any kid who shows interest and enthusiasm, as opposed to an ‘elite’ sport governed by dollars. So when the opportunity arose to purchase the school from the retiring owner, I jumped at the chance. It allows me to offer House and A level kids the kind of development instruction and ice touches that are normally targeted at ‘elite’ players. It’s incredibly rewarding to see those kids improve their skills and confidence. They work hard because they love it and I think both the kids and their parents really appreciate the chance to grow and succeed. For example, we ran our Pre-tryout camps in April, and quite a few of those kids — some of whom had been reluctant to even go to tryouts for the next level — made A or AA teams. That’s just fantastic.
What first attracted you to PowerPlayer? Honestly I found PowerPlayer during a Google search. I was trying to find something that would enable me to communicate more efficiently and effectively with both players and parents, and it immediately got my attention. After trying it out with the Minor PeeWee AA team I was coaching last season, and seeing how much the kids loved and remembered the feedback we provided through the system, I was convinced it was the right way to go.
How are you integrating PowerPlayer into your school programs? We’re implementing PowerPlayer in every aspect of the school. We run camps continuously — from pre-tryouts to summer, Christmas, even ongoing in-season camps — that give our kids the same kind of skating and puck skills development that their AA and AAA friends all get. We’re also rolling out a series of monthly PowerPlayer combines, where any player with a PowerPlayer account can come and get some metrics, ratings, and instructional commentary or video from our coaches.
What’s been the reaction to PowerPlayer from your players and parents? The kids love the feedback. I really feel that they take in and remember the things I tell them through the system much more than anything I might tell them verbally on the ice in the middle of a practice. I think it’s just the way they like to receive information now. Many of the parents have commented that they can immediately imagine the value in data that tracks their child’s progress and improvement over time, and that being able to actually see what my coaches and I are telling their kids is very informative.
What aspects of PowerPlayer are you using the most, and why? I get really excited about the mechanics of PowerPlayer! It’s a very short learning curve to figure out the system, what kind of drills it offers to measure skating, puck skills, and fitness, as well as the practice, intangibles, and game play ratings. It’s really easy to input data. But I think my most frequently used feature is the comments, especially after practices. I can give the players some really helpful feedback, and I’m starting to include more short video clips to show them specific things about their stride or edge work and things to focus on.
Have you seen improvements in your players as a result of the feedback you’re giving them? I’ve definitely been able to help players with specifics as a result of what we’ve seen in their data. For example, we noticed that one center’s face-off ratings were showing that he struggled in certain situations. And he knew he was struggling so his confidence was sagging. As coaches, we realized we were basically setting him up to fail. So instead of trying to force a correction on him, we keyed on one of his real strengths — very quick first three steps — and told him that in certain face-off situations we wanted to swap him out with a winger who’d take the draw so we could use his speed to our advantage. Bingo! He loved the opportunity to shine, and our success rate in those situations improved considerably. Of course his confidence shot back up too. All good!
What do you feel PowerPlayer does for you as a coach? Well it definitely allows me to communicate easily and effectively. One other thing I think is that as a coach you can sometimes be guilty of making assumptions about kids early on — like you’ve decided that a certain player is your top center or d-man. What we found is that by using PowerPlayer, we actually paid attention to every player as individuals continuously. Some of our early assumptions were not validated by the data, especially when it came to things like work ethic at practice, and some kids just showed so much improvement and effort in practice that it was undeniable.
How do you feel PowerPlayer benefits you as the owner of a hockey school? Right now PowerPlayer certainly differentiates us from other schools. Maybe not for long! Having the ability to provide feedback this way and involve parents in their kid’s hockey lives is fantastic. When we share feedback through PowerPlayer we know we’re sharing the beginning of a conversation that might never take place otherwise. How cool is that?
Now the parents can literally see what the coaches said. They can better understand where to focus if their child wants to get better. What specific skills or attributes should they try to help the child improve? What kind of camp should they put the child in?
One other major benefit is that PowerPlayer data is fantastic backup for the one-on-one meetings we hold from time to time. For me to have a record of what my coaches measured, and what they provided in terms of evaluations and instructional feedback along the way is phenomenal.
Looking ahead to when kids have six or seven years of PowerPlayer data, what value can you imagine from that? As a scouting record for down the road, that data could be incredibly valuable because it really paints a complete picture of a player. For a hockey player or parent to be able to review long term progress and possibly share it with a future coach is really unique.
That’s really my word for PowerPlayer: unique. It makes our camp and school unique. It allows me to provide something unique to each and every player any time I want. And it really unifies the coaches, player and parents. And that is totally unique.
Front Line Hockey School
The reaction from parents is most rewarding. They’re wide-eyed in amazement that we pay such close attention to their children.Read Post
“Anyone who wants to be good at something wants and needs feedback.”Read Post
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Why not give kids and parents the same level of insight into the sport process that they get into the academic process?Read Post
Every player has personal strengths and positives that can be identified and encouraged and every player can improve somewhere if they’re given the knowledge and support they need.Read Post
If I coach the way I was coached, and my coaches were coached the way they were coached, and so on, then I’m coaching like someone from the 1800s.Read Post
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For the last 19 years, I was a competitive hockey player, so I haven’t really looked at the sport through a purely coaching lens too often. But I’ve seen a lot of coaches.Read Post
“We thought we couldn’t ask for anything more, but then the club really out-did themselves by adding PowerPlayer. We’re extremely excited that Pineville Ice House is implementing this. To me it really proves that they have the players’ best interests at heart.”Read Post
It was 92 degrees F / 33 degrees C in Toronto last weekend, so naturally hundreds of hockey coaches converged on Ryerson University to immerse themselves in three days of knowledge, insight, innovation, and storytelling at the 2019 TeamSnap Coaches Site Hockey Coaches Conference.Read Post
It must be that time of year. Hockey-centric social media is jammed with posts exhorting people to ‘do the work,’ ‘embrace the grind,’ and to be sure to take ‘no days off.’Read Post
Kids do best when they instinctively know that the adults they rely on to guide them through life are in alignment. A coach who is backed up by a parent is a more effective coach, and frequent communication goes a long way toward making that possible.Read Post
Video + PowerPlayer data and comments = power tools for coaching.Read Post
First, if you want to make your life better as a coach, focus on becoming a better communicator. PowerPlayer definitely helps with that. And second, PowerPlayer ignites kids. It just fires them up.Read Post
In case you haven’t noticed, we love feedback. So we asked a whole bunch of hockey parents — our users (parents of hockey players whose coaches use PowerPlayer) and non-users (hockey parents in general) — for their thoughts about feedback, as it pertains to them and their young athletes.Read Post
I recently posted an article to a Facebook group in which the author explores the highly divisive topic of ice time, arguing both for and against the idea that ‘shortening the bench’ is a net positive for young hockey players. As you might have guessed, the post generated a lot of comments.Read Post
In youth hockey, where development is (or should be) the focus, wins and losses only tell part of the story.Read Post
We’re excited about our numbers to date, because we know we can build on them. After all, that’s what long-term development is all about.Read Post
I want to do everything I can to get the kids I work with to the next level — whatever that means to them individually — and to give them every advantage possible.Read Post
If you’re coaching youth team sports, you’re coaching other people’s kids — which means you’re coaching parents too. In any successful relationship, communication is essential. The challenge in coaching, of course, is time.Read Post
As a player, I would have loved to get this kind of feedback. I always wanted to be first, to be the best. But how could I know what my coach was thinking about me? Not every player is ready to ask their coach questions — some people are just shy — and I’m talking about players from minor hockey all the way to pro.Read Post
I flipped on the NHL Network the other day. While I usually don’t pay too much attention to the panel discussion stuff they broadcast ahead of games, this time something got my attention.
Apparently Jamie Benn was in a bit of a slump.Read Post
I love the drills and metrics for sure, and so do the kids, but seriously, the most useful thing for me personally is the ability to coach from home.Read Post
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“You can’t do player development without coach development. And that’s why it’s so important that you’re all here.” Dave Starman / NCAA Scout, Montreal Canadiens.Read Post
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I think we need parents to be part of the teams we’re coaching. If parents understand what I’m seeing in their child and can help me motivate them or address something that needs to be addressed, that’s hugely beneficial to their child, to me, and to the team.Read Post
Consisting of three parts, the formula involves providing feedback to young athletes at every stage of the development process as a way to help build their confidence.Read Post
“When you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad. But you’ve still got to throw the ball.”Read Post
“We’re seeing huge improvements in our kids now and we’re excited to roll PowerPlayer out to more and more of our players in a big way in 2018.”Read Post
“PowerPlayer really helps bring clarity to coaching, and I’m a big believer in communicating with players.”Read Post
“We wouldn’t accept a teacher telling us that our child had failed a grade at the end of the year without any warning or aid in helping them succeed, so why would we allow our players to go through a season without continuous feedback?”Read Post
We’ve shared PowerPlayer with countless coaches, hockey directors, and parents, and we’re working with organizations from Anchorage to Philadelphia, from Syracuse to Sweden. No one has told us they think providing meaningful feedback to kids and their parents is a bad idea.Read Post
“The coach-player-parent dynamic is critical. Always tell players what you see and what to work on, because feedback is critical.” Ray Ferraro / Coaches Site Conference 2017Read Post
Team success largely depends on mutual respect, common purpose and uncommon selflessness. In other words, team success depends on intangibles.Read Post
Before your accountant became a professional accountant, before your dentist became a professional dentist, and before the leading scorer in the NHL became a professional hockey player, they were kids.Read Post
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Even though I grew up in Buffalo, where winter totally rules, my sport growing up was baseball. Sure I watched the Sabres as a casual fan, but my knowledge of hockey was limited to hating Brett Hull. Google it!Read Post
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, or maybe even if you haven’t, you might be familiar with the 10,000 hour concept, which postulates that it takes that minimum number of hours of ‘deliberate practice’ to become ‘expert’ at something. Like chess, piano, ballet. Or hockey.Read Post
Growing up with a father who’s been a highly respected member of the Rochester NY-area hockey community for more than 40 years, Chris Collins has led a hockey life.Read Post
A while back, I connected with a friend who’d spent part of his summer sitting in a hockey rink watching his 10 year-old run through some drills. And he was frustrated. Not because of what was happening on the ice during the camp, but because of what wasn’t happening.Read Post
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In 2015, a nine-year-old BC kid quit his team with two games left in the season. Seems he’d had enough of sitting on the bench game after game, crying while he watched his teammates play. Why was he denied the opportunity to play?Read Post
Essentially, our current youth hockey measurement system prioritizes games, where effort can produce wins, and virtually ignores practices, where effort can produce winners.Read Post
I grew up with sports. And, oh yeah, of course… school! One of those things was arguably more fun than the other, and the rewards they offered differed, but for any real chance of success, both required not just attention but commitment.Read Post